2021 Detroit Tigers Diamonds in the Rough

by Matt Wiener
2021 Detroit Tigers in the Rough

Welcome to the tenth installment of my series 2021 Diamonds in the Rough. In this article, I will breakdown two hitting and two pitching prospects from the Detroit Tigers farm system.

Last time out, I took a look at some of the Colorado Rockies prospects.

In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.

To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team's latest MLB Pipeline Prospect Rankings.

Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.

2021 Detroit Tigers Diamonds in the Rough


Colt Keith, 3B (#20)

Bats: L | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 50 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 60 Arm
Age: 19
Highest Level: High School
ETA: 2024

The Tigers drafted Colt Keith, a verbal commit to Arizona State, out of Biloxi (Miss.) High School in the 5th round (132 overall) of the 2020 MLB draft. However, according to Keith's draft profile on Baseball America, "his pure toolset fits in the second round or better, but what a team thinks of his most likely defensive home and the quality of his hit tool will determine if he gets signed or makes it to campus at Arizona State."

Keith burst onto the national scene as a Sophomore in 2018 when he hit .510 with seven home runs over 110 plate appearances. As a Junior in 2019, Keith hit an even better.527 with eight home runs and was named the Gatorade 2019 Mississippi Player of the Year. That year, Keith also pitched in 16 appearances with a 6-0 record, five saves and a 1.47 ERA.

Though some scouts valued Keith more as a pitcher and he played shortstop in high school, the Tigers drafted him as a third baseman.

Keith boasts an impressive combination of plus raw power, plus speed, and plus arm strength. Per Keith's Perfect Game profile, out of eligible 2020 high school draftees, Keith placed in the 99.66% percentile in max exit velocity and the 88.13% percentile in his 60-yard dash time. Moreover, Keith's fastball ran up to 92 mph and placed in the 97.59% percentile for max fastball velocity.

With above-average bat speed, high barrel rates and natural loft in his swing, Keith is expected to develop power as he matures. In addition, Keith's athleticism and strong pitching arm translate well at the hot corner and would also play at a corner outfield position.

At just 19 years old and yet to play a professional game, Keith has the tools to advance rapidly through the minor leagues. But don't just take my word for it.

According to Keith, "I bring a lot to the table. I can play any position and play it very well. I bring an array of tools to the table. I can hit, hit with power, run, field, throw. I can get up to 95 mph off the bump and run a 6.4, 6.5 (60 yards). I'm a gamer and, in my opinion, I think I'm going to thrive [with the Tigers] and make it to the top fairly quickly."

Keith has high upside, with four tools currently graded 50 or higher. If Keith displays a solid hit tool in his first professional season, I think he will rocket up prospect rankings. Sign me up.

Bryant Packard, OF (#25)

Bats: L | Throws: R
Tools: 55 Hit | 50 Power | 40 Run | 45 Field | 40 Arm
Age: 23
Highest Level: High-A
ETA: 2022

The Tigers drafted Bryant Packard out of East Carolina University, in the 5th round (142 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft.

Packard is a pure hitter with plus raw power. Like Keith, Packard burst onto the national scene as a Sophomore in 2018, when he hit .406/.462/.671 with 14 home runs and six steals over 249 plate appearances. Packard led the AAC in each of the three triple-slash categories and was the 2018 conference player of the year. In addition, Packard set an ECU record 32-game hitting streak.

Though Packard's power production dipped during his 2019 junior year because of injuries (only seven home runs), Packard still hit .358/.444/.550 with 19 doubles (three more than in 2018) and five steals over 257 plate appearances. Packard's number of doubles are particularly impressive given his below-average speed. In addition, Packard managed to raise his walk rate by over three percent and lower his strikeout rate by nearly one and a half percent.

Packard enjoyed a very successful professional debut in 2019. The Tigers pushed Packard aggressively through three levels, up to High-A, in 2019. Packard hit .296/.392/422 with three home runs, 16 RBI, 21 runs and two steals over 158 plate appearances.

Prior to struggling in his five-game stint at High-A Lakeland, Packard posted wrC+ scores of 155 and 162 at Low-A Connecticut and Class A West Michigan, respectively. Further, Packard continued to display improved plate discipline, managing his raise his junior year walk rate by over two percent.

Standing at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Packard uses his big frame and smooth swing to generate loud contact and produce plus power to all parts of the field. Moreover, scouts have praised Packard's barrel control and pitch selection.

Packard is only a fringe-average defender in the outfield due to his below-average speed and arm. However, during 2020 instructs, the Tigers started giving Packard everyday reps at first base. Playing first base with more regularity should help mask Packard's defensive deficiencies. After all, there is no doubt that Packard's bat, not his glove, will be his ticket to the show.

Over the offseason, Packard has reportedly completely changed his diet, lost 15 pounds, and is moving much better. This will be an interesting development if it can translate to improved speed on the bases and agility in the field. Packard's improved speed was on full display when he smacked an inside-the-park HR in an inter-squad scrimmage against the Blue Jays last October.

Though Packard has described himself as an "old-fashioned" hitter, he purchased a Rapsodo swing analysis tool during the offseason. According to Packard "I had the Rapsodo just to see if I could get my exit (velocity) to go a little higher, and I really wanted my launch (angle) at 20 degrees." Chalk that up under things you love to see from a hitting prospect.

If 2019 was any sign, the Tigers are intent on moving Packard aggressively through the system. Packard has a high-caliber bat that will produce solid offensive upside and may be closer to Comerica than we think. The arrow is pointing straight up.


Zack Hess, RHP  (#29)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 55 SL | 45 CH | 45 CNTRL
Age: 24
Highest Level: A
ETA: 2022

The Tigers drafted Zack Hess out of Louisiana State University, in the 7th round (202 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft. Hess was also selected out of high school in the 35th round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Yankees and out of LSU in the 34th round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Braves prior to finally signing with the Tigers after the 2019 MLB draft.

At LSU, Hess was used both as a starter and a reliever. Though he started 26 of his final 36 appearances at LSU, Detroit drafted Hess as a reliever. Of note, Hess is only the third pure reliever prospect that I have included in this series (along with the Cubs' Luke Little and the Rockies' Gavin Hollowell).

Like Packard, Hess is a mature prospect that Detroit pushed aggressively through three levels (up to Class A West Michigan) in his 2019 professional debut. Over 22 innings in relief, Hess posted a tidy 2.60 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and 16 walks.

Standing at a towering 6-foot-6, Hess has an aggressive approach and good extension in his delivery. Hess' arsenal features an impressive fastball/slider combination, with both pitches flashing above average. In addition, Hess possesses a changeup, which he uses infrequently as a distant third offering. His slider has good break in the zone and is a true swing-and-miss offering. Though his fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range, Hess has hit 97 mph and has the potential for more.

In fact, in December, Hess made a bet with his agent Rachel Luba (yes, Trevor Bauer's agent) that he would hit 100 mph with his fastball in 2021. According to Hess, "I feel confident, but at the same time, I'm cool with getting a tattoo, so in my world, it's a win-win."

Over the offseason, Hess has added significant muscle and about 15 pounds, putting him around 230 pounds. Per Hess, his diet included 4,000 calories a day and "a lot of chicken and rice" until he reached his target weight. A chicken and rice guy? That's my kinda guy.

If Hess can continue to add velocity and pound the zone, I think he can develop into a high-leverage reliever. At 24 years old, Hess has the potential to move quickly through the minors and into an uncertain Detroit bullpen. According to Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, "[Hess has] got stuff, [he was a] college guy -- he has the kind of foundation to move fast a little bit."

Pitching exclusively out of the stretch, Hess has the nasty fastball/slider combination prototypical of a high-leverage reliever. Hess is an imposing presence on the mound and displayed a bulldog mentality in college. I think Hess has the best chance in the organization to serve as Detroit's closer of the future.

Keider Montero, RHP  (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 FB | 55 CB | 40 CH | 45 CNTRL
Age: 21
Highest Level: Low-A
ETA: 2023

The Tigers signed Keider Montero out of Venezuela during the 2016 international free agent signing period.

Though Montero struggled with a 4.02 ERA during his 2017 Dominican Summer League debut, his 3.37 FIP indicates that he was the victim of some bad luck. In addition, Montero was almost three years younger than his average competition.

Then, Montero broke out in the 2018 Dominican Summer League. In 2018, Montero pitched to a 2.14 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and 16 walks over 46.1 innings. Not only did Montero boost his strikeout rate by nearly one percent, he also slashed his walk rate by almost four percent.

In 2019, Montero continued to show improvement. Across two levels (Rookie and Low-A), Montero compiled a fantastic 2.08 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 49 strikeouts and 16 walks over 47.2 innings. Further, Montero posted career-best strikeout rates and walk rates, boosting his strikeout rate over six percent.

At only 20 years old, Montero has big arm strength for his age and some remaining physical projection. Montero sports a potential above-average fastball and a plus curveball. Like Hess, Montero also possesses a changeup, which sits below average and serves as a distant third offering. Further, Montero has displayed upticks in velocity with his fastball every year since signing. While Montero's fastball sat 91-94 mph in 2019, his fastball sat 94-96 mph during 2020 instructs.

But Montero's money pitch is his nasty late-breaking curveball, which features an elite 3,000 rpm spin rate and has flashed plus potential. In fact, Baseball America rated Montero's curveball the best curveball in the Tigers system in 2021.

Though Montero has the potential for an above-average fastball/curveball combination, his developing changeup and some control questions have led some scouts to peg Montero as a future bullpen piece. However, Montero has started 27 of his 39 appearances with the Tigers and all 10 of his appearances in 2021. Further, Montero has steadily decreased his walk rate each year. The Tigers seem interested in developing Montero as a starter and I think that Montero can put it all together and be a solid back of the rotation piece.

After consistently improving during his first three seasons, Montero is on the brink of elevating his prospect status in 2021. According to Tigers Vice President of Player Development Dave Littlefield, Montero was a standout during 2020 instructs. I think that Montero has the best chance of any Tigers pitching prospect currently ranked outside of the top 30 to jump into the top 20 next year. Keep an eye on Keider in 2021.

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1 comment

2021 Houston Astros Diamonds in the Rough - Fantasy Six Pack April 10, 2021 - 3:31 pm

[…] Last time out, I took a look at some of the Detroit Tigers prospects. […]


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